Anaheim has dipped more into the college ranks through the past few drafts. They have eight prospects playing in the NCAA, up from just five last year and including a first-round pick from each of the past two drafts.
Jake Gardiner, D
Sophomore, University of Wisconsin
Drafted 1st round, 17th overall, 2008
After a promising rookie season, Gardiner’s game has taken a step back this season. He’s produced only three points in 20 games on the season after 21 as a freshman. A big part of the lack of production has to do with Gardiner being slotted into more of a defensive role. Brendan Smith (DET) receives most of the power-play minutes, so Gardiner is focused more on the defensive end of the ice.
The smooth-skating defenseman will likely step into that role if Smith turns professional after the season, as expected. From a development standpoint, it’s a move that could pay off for Gardiner, as he converted to defense from forward while in high school.
Gardiner won gold at the World Junior Championship with the United States. Gardiner started the tournament as one of the three defensemen rotated in and out of the last pairing, but gradually earned more ice time as the tournament progressed. His +9 rating was tied for the best on the team. He also added three assists in seven games.
Kyle Palmieri, RW
Freshman, University of Notre Dame
Drafted 1st round, 26th overall, 2009
The second of two first-rounds picks from Anaheim last summer, Palmieri has been able to step in right away and make an impact on a veteran-laden lineup at Notre Dame. Palmieri’s work ethic makes him a versatile player who’s been able to contribute right away in different situations.
Palmieri’s produced five goals and four assists in 21 games. His numbers aren’t quite indicative of his offensive abilities, but that can be chalked up to ice time. Palmieri is a superb playmaker with a big shot. He’s also a strong two-way player, who has a good bit of grit to his game, despite his size.
Palmieri was a teammate of Gardiner’s on the gold medal-winning United States team. Palmieri had a goal and eight assists in seven games.
Nick Bonino, C
Junior, Boston University
Acquired from San Jose
Bonino was acquired in the trade that sent Travis Moen and Kent Huskins to San Jose. Bonino was coming off of a highly successful sophomore season that saw him score 50 points as Boston University captured the National Championship.
Like the rest of the Terriers, Bonino struggled out of the gate. He slipped under the point-per-game benchmark as BU slipped to the middle of the conference standings. They’ve begun to turn it on recently, and Bonino is a big part of that, having recorded 14 points in his past 10 games.
Bonino is a talented offensive player who has the ability to be one of the most dangerous players in all of college hockey. He is a smart player who is always around the puck, blessed with quick hands and a laser shot. He is a good candidate to earn a contract after this season, should Anaheim be comfortable with bringing him out early.
Justin Schultz, D
Freshman, University of Wisconsin
Drafted 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2008
One of the more pleasant surprises in the system is the play of the Schultz. Playing on a Wisconsin defense that is one of the deepest in the country, Schultz has been able to step in as a freshman and make a contribution. He’s put up nine points in 22 games so far, even logging some power-play minutes.
Schultz is a superb skater who excels at moving the puck. So far his defensive play has been acceptable. He still needs to put on considerable weight until he turns pro, as he’s still listed at 185, though he doesn’t look it. The former second-round pick has a lot of time to work on that though, and he’s in a system that has produced a few very good offensive defensemen in recent years.
Nick Pryor, D
Freshman, University of Maine
Drafted 7th round, 208th overall, 2008
One of the final picks of the 2008 draft, Pryor spent an additional season in the USHL before making the jump to college hockey this season. His transition to college hockey has been rocky. He has been in and out of the lineup with a concussion he suffered early in the season. He’s been limited to just six games, recording no points. He was back in the lineup last weekend after not having played since the first week of December.
Pryor is a small offensive defenseman. At 5’11, his shot is his biggest asset, and he alsomoves the puck and sees the ice very well. Durability continues to be an issue, as an ankle injury kept him out for the end of last season and the recovery dipped into the offseason. At his size, he will need to come back and add strength to be able to handle the older forwards.
Ryan Hegarty, D
Sophomore, University of Maine
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2008
Hegarty has been a steady presence on the Maine blueline this season, one that sorely needed help heading into the season. Maine was one of the worst teams in Hockey East all of last season, boasting one of the youngest lineups in college hockey. This season, Maine finds themselves sitting in fourth place in the conference.
Hegarty has put up four points in 19 games, including his first collegiate goal which he scored last weekend. His game isn’t about points. He’s a mobile defenseman who focuses his game more in the stay-at-home mold. His best asset is his positioning, though he is physical and difficult to play against when he wants to be.
Steven Kampfer, D
Senior, University of Michigan
Drafted 4th round, 93rd overall, 2007
On a Michigan team that’s struggled greatly by their standards, Kampfer has been his usual consistent self. After a horrific off-ice and on-ice event derailed most of his junior season, Kampfer has appeared in every one of Michigan’s 24 games, picking up 12 points along the way.
As he’s graduating this season, Anaheim will need to make a decision on whether or not to sign Kampfer in the offseason. He’s had a productive career, but is certainly no lock to sign. Kampfer does a lot of things well, but has no exceptional skills except for his smart. He’s undersized at 5’11 and is a decent skater, proficient in both the offensive and defensive zone.
Justin Vaive, LW
Junior, Miami University
Drafted 4th round, 92nd overall, 2007
Vaive is one of the pieces that still remain from the Brian Burke era — a player drafted on size and raw talent. Now a junior, Vaive stands at 6’6, pushing 220 pounds. The giant winger has talent with the puck, but has yet to break through and display it in college. He’s put up only five points in 23 games this season, a pace that might fall just short of the career high 12 he put up last season.